Columnist’s Attack Ignites Blog War

This week, the burgeoning S. African blogosphere is raging over a scathing attack on bloggers penned by David Bullard, one of that country’s leading newspaper columnists.

Bullard’s attack, Name and shame offensive bloggers, ran in his most recent Sunday Times column slot. He began by rehashing several tired blogging stereotypes and misconceptions, such as: “Most blog sites are the air guitars of journalism. They’re cobbled together by people who wouldn’t stand a hope in hell of getting a job in journalism, mainly because they have very little to say. It’s rather sad how many people think the tedious minutiae of their lives will be of any interest to anyone else.”

After a clichéd windup, Bullard plunged head-on into invective: “I …object to some anonymous, scrofulous nerd pumping meaningless drivel into cyberspace at all hours of the day and night simply because he can’t find a girl to sleep with him. These are the sort of wackos who gun down their fellow students at university.”

That very day, Vincent Maher (Tidbits contributor, and a lead developer of the Mail & Guardian’s new S. African blog aggregator Amatomu) posted a pointed response to Bullard. Among Maher’s points: “According to David Bullard, everyone who starts a blog wishes they could be a crusty old journalist. Here’s the reality check: Bloggers have jobs and write because they want to, not because its the only thing they can get paid to do.”

Maher’s post attracted more than 50 comments, including this one from Paul Jacobsen: “I really see the article as a stunt to generate this sort of publicity and debate and it has worked. What I find distasteful is his reference to the Virginia Tech (and other) shootings and the very simplistic and inaccurate characterization of bloggers as being the same sort of people as the nuts who perpetrated those crimes. Bullard may or may not understand blogging and other forms of new media and that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is to what extent the Sunday Times sanctions his rants.”

One of the least articulate comments in that thread came from Bullard himself: “Apology… no chance. Just answer one question for me. Are you guys naturally stupid or do you have to get up early in the morning to practice? I’ve checked some of your blogs and s**t they are so boring.”

My opinion: It strikes me as ironic that Bullard wrote in his now-infamous column: “Unlike the world of newsprint, there are no rules out there in the blogosphere and that makes it a very confusing place.” Hmmm… Looking over Bullard’s grossly misinformed generalizations and borderline hate speech, I’ve got to wonder: Exactly which “newsprint rules” applied at the Sunday Times in deciding whether to run this particular column?

Regardless of what you think of weblogs, it seems to me that bald-faced bigotry of any kind should have no place in a responsible news organization.

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